jeudi 25 février 2010

Bellocq's Olympia

"Ernest J. Bellocq was born in 1873 in a wealthy white Creole family in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He became known locally as an amateur photographer before setting himself up as a professional, making his living mostly by taking photographic records of landmarks and of ships and machinery for local companies. However, he also took personal photographs of the hidden side of local life, notably the opium dens in Chinatown and the prostitutes of Storyville. These were only known to a small number of his acquaintances. In the latter part of his life, he lived alone and acquired a reputation for eccentricity and unfriendliness. According to people who knew him in late life, he showed little interest in anything other than photography. In his early days, he was something of a dandy."

"All the photographs are portraits of women. Some are nude, some dressed, others posed as if acting a mysterious narrative. Many of the negatives were badly damaged, in part deliberately, which encouraged speculation. Many of the faces had been scraped out; whether this was done by Bellocq, his Jesuit priest brother who inherited them after E. J.'s death or someone else is unknown. Bellocq is the most likely candidate, since the damage was done while the emulsion was still wet. In a few photographs the women wore masks. It is likely that the faces were scraped out for the same reason that masks were used - to hide the identities of the women."

Obviously Joel Peter Witkin's mentor ....

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